I'm not preaching this week, but the lectionary readings are providing lots of food for thought as I reflect on one ministry with just the tiniest breathing space before I move on to the next.
This week's gospel speaks of weeds growing among the wheat. It even suggests that, sometimes, what looks like weeds become wheat and what looks like wheat can become weeds. Its sometimes hard to tell. This thought has really captured my imagination this week, especially as I wind up a ministry where I often felt like the weed growing amongst the wheat, put there to challenge what had been planted over many a long season. Being at odds with long in the tooth office bearers is not a comfortable place to be but, for me these past few years, it has certainly become a familiar place.
However, there is a tendency from that familiar place to wonder "Am I the only one who gets it?" That can lead to isolation or lend an air of superiority. Or, conversely, it can lead to the temptation to give in - or to lose confidence in what the Spirit seems to be saying and in the ability to discern.
Recently, when it was clear that even the weeds were being choked of all life, there was little breath left to jump the fence and be involved in a new harvest, part of a seemingly healthier cultivation.
How is it that the church, in so many places, has become the domain of the professional?
Lip service is paid to the priesthood of all believers or to the gospel demands on individuals in daily life but little of that is actually played out.
And so the wheat turns into a very closed up bunch of curmudgenous, middle aged men and women who are too zipped up to even begin to peer through the zipper's teeth, teeth that are being gnashed to powder.
And, in the end, when the harvest does not materialise, when the fruit does not appear, of course it is down to the professional who employs all the wrong tools and who simply doesn't understand horticulture anyway.
How many professionals need to be exhausted or driven away before the penny drops that maybe there is something wrong on the home turf?
The idea that, until things are grown, we don't know which is weed and which is wheat speaks clearly to me of giving things a chance, something too many churches are unwilling to do. We can't possibly take risks. Its safer to stick with the familiar - even if it is clear that that strategy hasn't worked for years, maybe even decades.
As I move on, I'm left with a sense of "what was it all about?" Was it worth all the angst and the very personal cost of ministering to folk who in many ways are just too comfortable to even recognise challenge whether presented subtly or more overtly. But again, this parable answers that. Only at the time of the harvest will we know. Only then will we be able to tell.
Meantime I have to live with the frustration of not knowing but, as I move on, I'm praying to the Lord of the harvest for more workers this time around. I'd love, just for a while, to play with the wheat rather than always hang out with the weeds. Time will tell.